By Teresa Currivan, LMFT, Parent Consultant
If your visual-spatial (VS)* child is at a more typical school that emphasizes traditional learning methods, please know that there is plenty you can do to facilitate their learning at home. These kids never stop learning, and often do their more important work after school and on the weekends (and, yes, sometimes at midnight.) Here are eight things you can do to facilitate their learning.
1) Support their projects and curiosities.
This is the easiest and clearest thing you can do. Help them find the tools, the classes, the glue, the shows, the entrepreneurial endeavors. Exhausted? See if you can get a neighbor kid to help, even a mentor if you can. High school students are often a good fit to mentor younger students. (Many VS high schoolers thrive when given real responsibilities such as teaching a younger child, especially for pay.)
2) Allow for plenty of unstructured time.
If they are at a school that is pretty structured, they may need plenty of unstructured time at home. Some kids will need downtime after school before they can venture into a project, even one that they want to do. If their weeks are packed, saving a half or even full weekend can be helpful. (#1 counts as unstructured time.)
3) Adjust homework.
If their homework is repetitive and tedious, and they are able to somehow communicate that they understand the work, ask their teacher if they can have less homework, or show their work in other ways. Remember to make this as easy on the teacher as possible.
They are busy (and underpaid!)
4) Welcome technology.
This is the way our children learn and play. Their brains are fast and sometimes learning from YouTube videos or documentaries suits them more than reading a textbook.
Listening to audiobooks might engage them more than reading books, and they may remember stories or information better that way. Welcome their way of learning.
Help them to understand how to fact-check and to do things like navigating comments so they do not become overwhelmed. These are skills they will need in life anyway.
Additionally, video and online gaming can have its value. We don’t know what the jobs of the future will look like, but I’m pretty sure that brain surgeons will be using technology to operate (if they aren’t already).
Multiplayer gaming also promotes social skills. (See Peter Gray’s article, linked below.)*
5) Get outside with your visual-spatial learner.
Visual-Spatial children need to move and be in nature. The truth is that we all need nature, but VS learners who tend to be highly sensitive need nature to soften the harshness of the world so they can unwind, recharge, and reconnect to themselves.
6) Be aware of how school work can impact behavior and mental health.
If your child is having behavior issues or is showing signs of depression, and you suspect that it is due to a mismatched school setting, seek help from professionals who understand this population.*
Additionally, if you do nothing else for your VS child, understanding them will go a long way. Your relationship, (and any adult in their life who understands them) is going to be helpful.
If you are able to do one thing on this list, you are helping them.
7) Reframe their situation and side coach.
If you are able, understanding your VS child and in turn, helping them to understand themselves in the context of a mostly non-visual spatial world can go a long way.
If this is something you will never, in a million years, understand yourself, seek outside help from a professional who truly understands this. These kids are often their own worst critics.
Instead of “there’s something wrong with me, I don’t fit in,” you can help them to understand “this isn’t the best educational fit for me, they can’t teach me in the way I learn.”
Find your own words that represent your understanding of this.
Children know the truth when they hear it. Remind them that school doesn’t need to be the only place where they learn (and therefore judge their ability to learn.) It may only take a few conversations to internalize this understanding, with the goal being for them to be able to understand themselves and when age-appropriate, to advocate for themselves.
8) Help them find their people.
Are they crazy about coding, sewing or even Dungeons and Dragons? Find a group if you can. Or you may need to connect them with one important friend.
Have a quirky, visual-spatial aunt or neighbor down the street? Or a random kid they connected with at their tae kwon do class, but they live an hour away? Welcome these relationships and make the drive if you can.
The world is changing. I believe that our Visual-Spatial learners are wired for the future.
Many of them are concerned with and ready to solve many of the world’s problems that most of us can’t even imagine there are solutions to. Meeting them where they are at and helping them navigate their education while holding onto their gifts is key to helping them reach their potential.
These kids are amazing. I think we can all agree that we want them to be happy, to continue to grow, and ultimately to become contributing members of our planet.
©2020 Teresa Currivan
*Signs of depression and anxiety, including overuse of video gaming, are important to understand more deeply. Please seek professional help when needed.
Teresa Currivan lives in the San Francisco, California Bay Area with her husband and son. She’s a mother, licensed marriage and family therapist, and parent coach at Help My Child Thrive Coaching LLC. She is the parent support specialist at Big Minds Unschool, a K-8 school for twice-exceptional children, and leads parent support groups there and in her private practice. In addition to parent coaching, she works with children, teens, and adults. Her specialties are giftedness and twice-exceptionality. Teresa has been published on sites such as Mother.ly and Filter Free Parents. She’s also a writer for GHF Newsletter and a blogger at Hoagies Gifted Education Page. You can find her articles on topics ranging from gifted testing, sensory disorders, appropriate diagnoses, and parenting the gifted on this website, https://helpmychildthrive.com. Follow her on Facebook at fb.me/TeresaCurrivanCoaching.
Wondering what a visual-spatial learner is? This article may help:
You may also be interested in:
Benefits of Play Revealed in Research on Video Gaming by Peter Gray
Announcing The Right Place Learning Center in Lafayette, CA – finally, a place where you can get all of the needs met for your out-of-the-box but struggling learner. Click here for more information. (We are currently conducting all assessments on Zoom unless we can make a case for meeting in-person.) Click here for more info: